Whoever was in charge of promotion for today’s Full Moon movie probably died of starvation when they were trapped in a room due to their inability to fit through the door with their gargantuan testicles. Every poster, synopsis, article, whatever, I have read on Shadowzone is emblazoned with the tagline “Beyond Alien, Beyond The Thing.” It’s important to aim for the stars but it’s also important not to write checks your movie can’t cash and brazenly comparing your film to two of the most influential horror sci-fi movies ever, going so far as to insinuate that your movie is better, is a standard that few movies would even dare consider trying. Spoiler alert! It’s not better than either, but that doesn’t take away from this being a really good movie.
Capt. Hickock (David Beecroft) is called to investigate a sudden death at Project Shadowzone, a hypersleep research facility buried underground in the Nevada desert. Upon arriving he finds something fishy about the evasive calm of the project’s head Dr. Van Fleet (James Hong) and assistant Dr. Erhardy (Louise Fletcher.) When Hickock asks the scientists to replicate the conditions that were present when the last subject died, a shape-shifting alien from another dimension which is capable of assuming the form of one’s fears is released and the people of the installation have to survive long enough to find a way out.
Shadowzone is a familiar premise, it’s an installation horror film in which a group of characters are stuck in an industrial setting filled with steam pipes and shadowy corridors. There’s always something inside with our heroes and no easy way out for them so they have to stick together, but of course they just split up and die. You’ve seen this movie a million times, but while Shadowzone is not quite as good as its boxart wants you to believe, it is a cut above most.
The film, written and directed by J.S. Cardone (who wrote Crash and Burn) is tight and tense. The scene preceding everything going to hell, where the scientists are trying to hide the potential danger of their project from Hickock as they’re forced to risk disaster so he doesn’t find out, is incredibly tense. Once things get started in earnest there’s a pervading sense of dread, and the goopy blood-drenched monstrosities that jump out are wonderfully realistic and grotesquely terrifying.
The atmosphere is a mixed bag of both the deep and the shallow with influences all over the place from John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon to David Cronenberg, Roger Corman, and H.P. Lovecraft; which gives it a nice midnight movie meets otherworldly terror eeriness that I enjoyed. There’s a wonderful cast including a fair amount of substantial parts for underrated character actors like Miguel Nunez and Louise Fletcher.
Shadowzone kind of feels like a lost Empire movie and is the best movie I have reviewed for this column thus far. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s worlds better than you would imagine coming from the director of Wicked Little Things and writer of The Covenant and a must own for anyone chasing down those elusive good Alien ripoffs.
Watch, Toss, Or Buy? Buy this, watch it, and put it in a prideful place upon your shelf.
If You Liked This, Watch: Graveyard Shift (1990), Prince of Darkness (1987), From Beyond (1986), Alien (1979), The Thing (1982), Leviathan (1989), Creepozoids (1987), Crash and Burn (1990), Deep Blue Sea (1999), Forbidden World (1982), Mind Ripper (1995), Carnosaur 2 (1995), The Terror Within (1989), Dead Space (1991), Virus (1999), Screamers (1995)